YEARS AGO, IN AN environment that sounds so harshly foreign to many of my work colleagues today, I worked in an organisation as a K-level employee, in some ways like a Formula One driver. More than 350,000 people worked in this organisation but in my specialism, fewer than 350 of those people would be qualified to sit in my seat. No day was and less than 12 hours long. Some days overlapped. The phones would trigger a crescendo of different pulses, ring tones and flashing lights and you decided how high up the console to squelch the noise. For nearly three years, I endured that job and then resolved to get out of it, never to return to the top of my game.
To my right elbow at the moment, a clear blue sky shows a plane full of holiday makers overhead,flying ahead of contrails towards a summer sun destination. As a K-level controller, I would be the voice at the end of a phone call that would turn planes around or direct them into safe havens. By using exceptionally powerful HF radio transmitters, I could throw my voice around the world, under the sea, and into the belly of concrete bunkers where other K-levels would respond to familiar requests with no questions asked.